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The Daily



10-03-03: Sheriff hits up commissioners for new jail


Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey wants a new jail.
The sheriff appealed to Mercer County Commissioners Thursday for money to assess the needs of the county jail in the wake of last weekend’s jail break.
While the short-lived escape by felon Steven Mayer was the result of him crashing through an exterior door, Grey also asked the commissioners to consider fixing the other problems with the jail.
“The fact is we have a 65-year-old jail, yes, probably one of the best in the state in 1939 when it was built,” Grey told the commissioners. “I’ve got an overcrowding issue, not related to the escape, but we are overcrowded just about every day.”
Grey told the commission that a representative from a prison building firm will inspect the jail’s broken exterior door on Monday at no charge. But for $10,000, the company would do a full assessment of the jail that would provide options for expansion or for building a new facility, he added.
Grey explained the jail population exceeds the limit of 15 on a majority of days, and prisoners are sometimes shipped to another county jail, or on rare cases, released. Also, the elevator needs fixed and there is not enough staff to run the facility to state guidelines.
“This is kind of a wake up call where we need to start thinking about putting more than a Band-Aid on it. We’re starting to hold people who have a legitimate reason to want to get out,” Grey said of the increasing list of felons the jail holds.
“We have to look at fixing more than just those doors ... when I have to ask police departments not to serve warrants,” Grey continued.
This issue came to a head after inmate Mayer escaped the grasp of a deputy and used his weight to knock open a door from the jail’s recreation area, which doubles as a garage bay. The inmate attempted to run though a door as ministers from Celina Baptist Temple were exiting after a Saturday service. The ministers blocked the door from the outside, and Mayer was grabbed by jail deputy Josh Boos. Mayer wrestled away from Boos and ran full speed into another door, which gave way. Outside, another deputy that happened to be in the parking lot tackled the inmate.
After a long discussion, the commissioners gave Grey authority to seek a cost estimate on doing a full assessment.
As ideas were passed back and forth for a location for a new or satellite jail, the areas mentioned included the former county administration building on South Main Street in Celina, the county home property and the building known as the Spriggs building next to the Celina Fire Department.
Grey pressed the commissioners not to drag their feet on jail issues.
“Right now we have a security issue ... that guy ran right through my door,” Grey said. “There’s no way I cannot have (prisoners) go by those doors. Hopefully nobody else is going to try it.”


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